2016 Platinum Award for Utility Excellence

Winners of the 2016 AMWA Platinum Award for Utility Excellence were:

  • Beaver Water District (Arkansas)
  • Fort Wayne City Utilities (Indiana)
  • Kansas City Board of Public Utilities (Kansas)
  • KC Water (Missouri)
  • City of Mesa Water Resources Department (Arizona)
  • Phoenix Water Services Department (Arizona)
  • City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department (North Carolina)
  • San Antonio Water System (Texas)
  • Suffolk County Water Authority (New York)
  • Tacoma Water (Washington)

Beaver Water District optimizes operations to produce a quality product by setting a goal of 100 percent compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, maintaining membership in the Partnership for Safe Water and ensuring that capital planning focuses on maintaining high quality water.  The utility updated its asset management plan and used the information to establish funding requirements for its Replacement & Refurbishment Fund, which is integral to its 15-year financial plan update and associated recommended wholesale water rate increases. The District promotes customer satisfaction and stakeholder support to achieve community sustainability through various outreach activities.

Fort Wayne City Utilities consistently produces quality water for its customers, allowing management to focus on other key initiatives to improve its organization. The utility prioritizes employee and leadership development by encouraging continuous learning through in-house and external training opportunities, for example, growing the number of professional engineers on staff from two to 16. Management has also rewritten all job descriptions to provide for career growth.  In 2015, the utility implemented a new customer account management and billing system, which has benefited both customers and the utility.  And new chemical feed programs were implemented at its filtration plant, resulting in more consistent and better quality water.

Kansas City Board of Public Utilities has implemented improvement initiatives including: valve, hydrant and customer leak detection programs; water treatment plant filter upgrades; water distribution facility maintenance and Geographic Information System; a water main and fire hydrant replacement project; a new four-million gallon water reservoir; and a Maximo asset work order management program. The utility develops programs to ensure training and understanding of work processes and standards throughout the organization. It works continually to improve its services to the community and measures overall customer satisfaction by reviewing data from customer satisfaction studies, customer inquiry reports, a cost-of-service study and AEGIS risk assessment.

KC Water has capitalized on challenges to establish an evidence-based, data-driven utility in all aspects, including infrastructure rehabilitation, maintenance, operational and customer-service programs. Achievements include: new infrastructure rehabilitation based on increased customer satisfaction as measured by customer surveys; improved main replacement protocols based on business risk exposure; and significant automation of many business processes. Careful management of debt coverage requirements to support long-term infrastructure investment has improved financial results. Forward-thinking processes have been implanted throughout administrative functions including customer service operations, employee training and staff development and long-range organizational planning.

To conserve finite resources, Mesa Water decreased its dependence on non-renewable groundwater supplies from over 70 percent in 1984, to around 10 percent today.  The utility recharges approximately 8,000 acre-feet of effluent a year and achieves close to 100 percent reuse of reclaimed water. Its technology initiatives include Cityworks computerized maintenance management software and asset management system, and its mobile dispatch utilizes geolocation to ensure responsive dispatch to emergencies and complaints. Mesa Water maintains an Aa2 bond rating from Moody’s and developed a 20-year forecast model to anticipate revenues and expenses and prepare reserves for smoothing potential future rate increases.

Phoenix Water’s executive management team gathered supervisors, managers and field employees into cross-divisional teams based on the Attributes of Effective Utility Management to develop goals to drive and measure performance. Progress was reported over 40 targets. For example, the percentage of calls answered within two minutes went from a low of around 30 percent a year ago, to 98 percent today. To prevent the catastrophic failure of pre-stressed concrete cylinder transmission pipelines, the utility set a goal of inspecting 32 miles of critical water mains in three years. It is currently poised to complete a cumulative total of over 55 miles of inspections.

As a regional utility, operations of the City of Raleigh Public Utilities Department are supported via an enterprise fund model and are fully funded by revenues received from rates and fees  for services, as well as fees associated with new development. Over the past three years, the utility made significant progress in strategic plan elements of employee and leadership development, operational optimization, stakeholder outreach, reliability, environmental stewardship, water resource management and financial viability. The strategic plan was updated in 2015 to identify new initiatives, and primary focus now includes customer service, reliability and operational optimization.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) integrated infrastructure, employees and rates by combining with a large utility, BexarMet. This multi-year process demonstrated the ability to merge the assets, liabilities, rights, duties and obligations of a substandard utility with the high expectations of SAWS while successfully providing seamless service to customers. The utility constantly forecasts with sophisticated models to anticipate conditions affecting revenue, such as climate, population growth and supply. Strategies include refinancing debt, reducing O&M expenditures, developing alternative water supplies, and increasing education and outreach to support conservation. With more than 11,000 miles of pipe, condition and repair is consistently monitored and tracked. 

Suffolk County Water Authority’s Strategic Plan 2025 incorporates mobile workforce technology, development of a 24-hour customer service operation, development of new treatment methods for emerging contaminants, creation of an Employee Development Center to foster employee growth and substantial infrastructure investment.  The utility organized the Long Island Commission for Aquifer Protection to preserve the aquifer that provides all of Long Island’s drinking water.  It also expanded testing to 398 chemicals – 249 more than required by regulators.  Its environmentally friendly vehicle fleet and infrastructure include 26 compressed natural gas-fueled vehicles and a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station. Construction on a CNG-compliant repair facility is underway.

Tacoma Water has made significant progress in becoming a more effective organization through planning, analysis and developing strong stakeholder relationships. Understanding risk through data and analysis is an important dimension of the enhanced planning and decision making at Tacoma Water, which will position it well to adapt to future conditions and opportunities. The utility’s main accomplishments include: strategic planning and use of balanced scorecard to measure execution; completion of construction and startup of its filtration plant; significant natural resource enhancements and habitat work in the Green River Watershed; GIS implementation; asset management program development; and adoption of a decision-making framework for budget development.